tv NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt NBC August 28, 2015 7:00pm-7:31pm EDT
tonight, a state of emergency declared in florida as killer tropical storm erika takes aim. the death toll rising in the caribbean. at least a dozen dead. many more missing in widespread flooding and mudslides. desperate journey. a crush of refugees and a deadly exodus by sea with throngs scrambling ashore and by land. with men, women, and children abandoned to die inside a truck. the verdict comes down in the closely watched trial of a former student from an elite prep school accused of raping a freshman as part of a sordid senior tradition. and ten years later we're live from new orleans. a decade after hurricane katrina scarred this great american city. a remarkable comeback story but not for all who live here. "nightly news" begins
right now. >> announcer: katrina, 10 years later. this is "nbc nightly news with lester holt." reporting tonight from new orleans. good evening. exactly 10 years ago the streets behind me were virtually empty. landfall of hurricane katrina was just over 12 hours away. a monster storm that would slam the gulf coast and knock this city to its knees. we will look back at katrina a bit later in this newscast. but it's another storm named erika that we want to lead off with tonight. right now hitting the dominican republic with high winds and heavy rain and beating a path toward florida, which is under a state of emergency at this hour. tropical storm erika has already killed at least 12 people in the caribbean before barreling into puerto rico. nbc's janet shamlian is in san juan. she starts us off tonight. >> reporter: devastation on the tiny island of dominica.
12 dead, as many as 20 missing after more than a fooft rain from tropical storm erika triggered 34udslides and flooding. turning roads into rivers. [ screaming ] and wiping out some structures altogether. in the aftermath communities littered with debris and people in shock. 80% of the island was left without power, and much of the fresh water supply cut off. puerto rico was next in erika's path. the island closed up and prepared for the worst. gusting winds, downed trees, and power lines. cutting electricity to its southern side. but the capital of san juan was largely spared. in the dominican republic the storm took aim once again. a glancing blow that toppled trees and destroyed property. and now tonight florida is under a state of emergency. >> pay attention, folks, because you're going to see some significant changes now. >> reporter: it's been ten years since a hurricane hit the state. residents are stocking up on essentials. sandbags are being handed out. and lines of cars wrap around blocks, waiting
for gas. >> i'm just trying to be prepared in case it does come. >> reporter: even though it appears erika will weaken before hitting the mainland u.s., authorities are urging everyone not to let their guard down. >> prepare for the worst and hope for the best. and hopefully, that's what will happen here. >> reporter: florida is watching the tropical system push toward its shore as erika in some form bears down on the southern part of the state by sunday. tonight, officials in dominica are describing the style of the destruction as epic and they are asking for help from other islands here in the region. back to you, lester. >> janet shamlian tonight. nbc's al roker joins me here in new orleans with more on erika's path. al? >> that's right, lester, right now we're watching it. it's somewhat deteriorating but it's still a potentially dangerous storm. let's look at its latest location. currently, erika is about 95 miles west-southwest of santo domingo, the dominican republic. it is booking, moving west at 21 miles per
hour. path of the storm brings it over the dominican republic, haiti. it may start to shred because of the high mountains there. if it goes over cuba, it gets even more danger as far as its not being able to survive. it's then out into the atlantic. comes on shore sometime monday afternoon as a weak tropical storm and then continues on up into the southeast. but again, lester, we still have to watch it. it still could intensify. so people are not out of the danger zone yet down to the southeast. >> al roker, thanks very much. now we turn to the crisis exploding overseas. enormous waves of migrants, many of them refugees from war-torn nations, fleeing en masse to europe. but the journey is long and perilous with thousands dying along the way to what they hope will be a better life. ron allen is following this story for us tonight from calais, france. >> reporter: today the bodies of desperate migrants washing up on shore who drowned in search of a better life. at least 2,500 already lost at sea this year. this man and his daughter fleeing the
war in syria were rescued after their boat sank. "the boat was in bad condition," he says. "and people died." some fleeing call it the route of death. across the rough, wide mediterranean sea. from africa and the middle east to europe. more than 300,000 this year desperate to escape war and poverty. this the aftermath of a rescue effort. several hundred saved but 52 perished. passengers who suffocated, packed below deck on a wooden ship. >> it was very, very crowded, and it was also the engine room. so we could just imagine what it could have been traveling like that. >> reporter: today authorities say 71 people including eight women and four children died in that truck found abandoned on a highway in austria. the youngest a girl perhaps 2 years old. at least three people arrested, police say, believed to be low-level members of a human smuggling ring, preying on the thousands who would give anything and risk everything to start over someplace safe in
europe. and here in northern france some 3,000 migrants live in squalid makeshift camps month after month, waiting for their chance. they scale barbed wire fences, try to stow away on trucks and ferries or even walk 31 miles through the undersea tunnel to great britain. >> i want to go to england. england is nice for me. >> reporter: this man who fled the war in sudan said he has tried five times to get to england. but with heavy security in place turning them back, he and so many others plot their next move in the camps with no place else to go. it's a story we heard again and again here in the camps. men and women willing to risk their lives for the chance at a better life. and tonight many are making their way off into the darkness to try yet again. lester? >> ron allen in france tonight. a 17-year-old from virginia is now the youngest person in the u.s. to be sentenced to prison for supporting isis. ali shukri amin pleaded guilty in june to recruiting online for isis and helping a
classmate get to syria to join that terror group. amin, a one-time honors student, received 11 years in prison. the lone survivor from that horrific shooting on live tv is in good condition tonight following a pair of surgeries. vicki gardner was being interviewed when gunman vester flanagan fired 17 shots, wounding gardner and killing reporter alison parker and cameraman adam ward. gardner recalls ducking before getting shot in the back and the gun jamming or running out of bullets. according to a family spokesman. her family also says she was able to walk to an ambulance and call her husband in the aftermath. now to the race for president. hillary clinton and her fellow democratic rivals playing to a friendly room at the dnc summer meeting in minneapolis. even as questions swirl about the ambitions of one potential candidate not on the stage, vice president joe biden. we get the details tonight from nbc's kristen welker. >> reporter: it was an
energized hillary clinton in minneapolis today, reassuring democrats that despite the e-mail controversy she's still the party's best bet. >> that's what's at stake in this election. whether our country keeps moving toward opportunity or whether republicans get another chance to rip away the progress. >> whatever happened to the tradition of open debates? >> reporter: but it was an angry former maryland governor martin o'malley who accused the party's leadership of fixing the game. >> four debates and four debates only, we are told, not asked. this sort of rigged process has never been attempted before. >> reporter: earning a chilly handshake with party chair debbie wasserman schultz. later, vermont senator bernie sanders also chastised the party. >> we need a movement which takes on the economic and political establishment, not one which is part of that establishment. >> reporter: but after
ticking off the points of his liberal agenda, his reception was much warmer. for clinton's part she skipped over her party's rivals and launched some of her sharpest attacks yet at the republican front-runner. >> trump actually says he would do a much better job for women than i would. now, that's a general election debate that's going to be a lot of fun. >> reporter: overshadowing it all, the potential candidate who's not here, vice president joe biden, who's still weighing his options. there wasn't a whole lot of talk about biden here today, but democrats are anxiously awaiting his decision. kristen welker, nbc news, minneapolis. a powerful hurricane with unprecedented strength is how the national service weather bulletin read on this date ten years ago, and they had it about right. hurricane katrina literally changed the face of the louisiana and mississippi gulf coasts and nearly drowned this city. tonight kerry sanders takes a look at how far this region has come. >> reporter: in new
orleans today the music is back but the memories are still fresh. when katrina slammed ashore, she was a category 3 hurricane. packing 140-mile-per-hour winds. the gulf coast took a beating. katrina's storm surge overwhelmed new orleans's levees. 80% of the city flooded. people fled their homes. >> this is just an unbelievable scene. >> reporter: some 10,000 took shelter in the superdome. which became a convention of misery. others stuck it out at home. tens of thousands who would need rescue or would be beyond rescue. when it was over, more than 1,800 were dead, most in new orleans. 70% of the homes damaged or destroyed. today 80% of those who left have returned. the tourist sections of the city have been rebuilt. in other areas like the lower 9th ward recovery has been slow. more than $142 billion
have been spent to restore the battered gulf coast, where more than a million people were displaced. in waveland, mississippi more than 20% of the population has never returned. >> there are just a lot of empty lots. >> reporter: brownie, you're doing a heck of a job. >> reporter: back in 2005 president bush had praise for fema director michael brown. brown is now working as a radio talk show host. president bush returned to new orleans today. >> the crescent city has risen again, and its best days lie ahead. >> reporter: this morning as new orleans celebrated its rebirth robert green visited the providence cemetery, where his mother and granddaughter are buried. both drowned ten years ago this week when the levees broke. >> anytime you lose a life, especially when you lose a life the way people lost their lives in katrina, it becomes important to make sure it doesn't happen again. >> reporter: the federal government has spent more than $14 billion building these concrete walls and reinforcing more than
169 miles of earthen levees, all designed, they hope, to prevent new orleans from ever flooding again. lester? >> all right, kerry sanders tonight. kerry, thanks. some of us who were here in new orleans during the early days of the katrina disaster openly wondered whether we'd ever see this, tourists filling the streets, businesses roaring back. the successes of the last ten years are abundant to see. at the same time you don't have to look very far from where i am to see the rebirth of this city has been uneven. yet there remains here a deep reservoir of hope and determination. the tale of two cities is a familiar one to much of urban america. the haves and have nots. it's just that in new orleans it seemed to be mostly the latter who we remember were left desperate and abandoned in a drowning city. >> help, help. >> we couldn't get out. no transportation. just was no way. >> reporter: you were left behind? >> we was left behind. >> reporter: today some wonder if the contrast isn't more glaring. 15 minutes from the
iconic tourist mecca sits the hard-hit lower 9th ward, dotted with the overgrown scars of katrina. who would have believed that it would have taken a decade for a simple grocery store to open here? >> where would i find a fresh tomato or fresh lemon around here? >> right here. this is the only place. this is the only place. the only other grocery store, full-service grocery store we have is walmart, and it's in the next city. you have to catch three city buses. >> reporter: army veteran bernel cotland, spent his life savings to open this store to a grateful community. >> appreciate you coming around. >> no problem. >> ten years later we're down to what we got. we've got one store back in this area. >> this actually started the operation of shoring up this levee. >> reporter: katrina didn't discriminate, but some question whether the recovery has. in its recent assessment of the state of black new orleans, the urban league highlights 2013 figures showing black unemployment more than twice as high as it was for whites. and incomes virtually stagnant for
african-americans at around $25,000 a year. as the median income for whites climbed to over 60,000. >> has the opportunity now been missed to make this a more equitable city? >> i don't think it's been missed, but i do think that it requires a bit of a course correction. >> reporter: a course bernel cotland is trying to steer on this lonely block, one customer at a time. >> in my world, mr. holt, you're either part of the problem or you're part of the solution. everybody knows what the problem was. the solution was there's no stores, you have to open one. that's what i did. >> reporter: bernel tells me his next act, he wants to open a laundry. there's not one of those around either. it's the little things, he points out, that make a community, and he's trying his best. still ahead tonight, judgment day in a trial that has gripped so many this summer. the jury taking just over seven hours to return its verdict in the case of a former prep school student accused of raping a freshman girl. also, the explosive scenes from hawaii's big island. lava erupting from one of the world's most active volcanoes.
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we're back now with the verdict in a trial that has seized the headlines, sparking a national conversation about sexual assault in high school. a graduate from a prominent new hampshire prep school accused of raping a freshman as part of an annual senior ritual. it took the jury fewer than eight hours to deliver the defendant's fate today. nbc's gabe gutierrez has been following the trial in concord.
>> guilty or not guilty? >> guilty. >> reporter: 19-year-old owen labrie doubled over and cried as the jury returned a split verdict. not guilty on the most seriousious felony sexual assault charges but guilty of one felony and four misdemeanors most related to statutory rape. >> on behalf of the victim herself she says she has left here with her head held high. it's a step in the right direction. >> reporter: this trial has rocked one of the nation's most elite boarding schools, st. paul's in new hampshire. its alumni include secretary of state john kerry and several members of congress. the verdict capped six days of agonizing testimony. >> i was raped. i was violated in so many ways. of course i was traumatized. i'm sorry. >> reporter: we're disguising the girl's voice and not showing her face. prosecutors argued labrie sexually assaulted her as part of a ritual called the senior salute, where older students asked out younger ones,
sometimes for sex. >> for months before the senior salute he knew what he wanted. >> reporter: two days before labrie graduated the girl agreed to meet with him on the secluded top floor of this campus building. the defense said the encounter was consensual, that they kissed but never had intercourse. >> it wouldn't have been a good move to have sex with this girl. >> reporter: in a statement to parents today st. paul's said the senior salute was not a tradition and labrie's tradition was never condoned by the school. the case drew national scrutiny to sex on high school campuses. the cdc says 42% of women who are raped were assaulted before they were 18. >> this verdict is going to change not only the culture of the school but it's a message throughout the country that things that people may brag about with respect to underaged victims is really something that can send them to jail. >> reporter: labrie's one felony conviction, using a computer to seduce a minor. sentencing is now set for october, and he faces up to 11 years in prison.
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♪ ♪ for many when the music began to play again here in the french quarter they knew new orleans was going to be okay. the musicians of this remarkable city have played a big role in helping to bring it back. one of them is troy andrews, better known to jazz fans as trombone shorty. and before we sign off, troy, first of all it's great to have you here. tell me what you learned about this city in the face of that tragedy ten years ago. >> one thing i learned about the people of new orleans is that we're very strong and we don't give up and we support one another all over the world. so the city of new orleans and the people really love this city everywhere they go. >> you remember what it was like the first time you went back in the clubs during the
early days? >> oh, yeah, i remember. it was a lot of fun. able to be back here and play some music. i think music is the heartbeat of the city. and that actually helped a bunch of people come back. >> well, i think certainly you see the people out here and it's almost like a snapshot of what it was like before. >> absolutely. the people walking around. we could hear music playing down the street, tap dancers around, and that makes us feel even more at home and that the city's going to continue to be strong. >> listen, it's great to have you here. we're glad you're doing well. thanks for stopping by. that's going to do it for us on a friday night. for all of us at nbc news, i'm lester holt. have a good night from new orleans. ♪ ♪ ♪